Wickets tumble at Karachi

After being criticized as one of the worst series in recent memory between two arch-rivals, entirely due to the dead nature of the pitches at hand at the venues for the first two Tests, it was a breath of fresh air, to see a green top at Karachi, with conditions favouring seam and swing bowlers, for the final deciding Test between Pakistan and India.

Irfan Pathan, who had been able to grab just a couple of wickets so far in the series, in stark contrast, took three in the very first over of the match, as the visitors sent Pakistan in to bat. The last three of balls of his first over accounted for the wickets of Salman Butt, Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana, helping him become only the second Indian to bring up a hat-trick in Test cricket. Pakistan could have capitulated miserably, but Kamran Akmal was up to the task, and rescued the home side with a spirited 113, before the pacemen came out in the last session to give India a good scare.

With Inzamam-ul-Haq out due to injury, it was always expected that Pakistani batsmen could tumble like a pack of cards, if put pressure on. In the last two Tests, they were batting on flat decks, the sort of stuff that suits them more than anything else. However, whether or not they could handle the transition, especially a sudden one, was always suspected. Pathan took advantage of both the conditions, as well as the complacency of the Pakistani batsmen, to send them reeling at 0/3.

The fourth ball of Pathan’s first over was edged to Dravid at first slip, while Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana were removed off similar deliveries, but LBW and bowled respectively. It was evident from their flamboyant drives to viciously in-coming deliveries that the amount of runs scored earlier in the series had gotten to them, and they were expecting a much easier start. Faisal Iqbal followed a few overs later, when he misjudged a slightly in-coming ball from Zaheer Khan, and was found in front of the wickets, with the trajectory in line so as to hit the off-stump, the score at 13/4.

Pakistan could still have prevented a major disaster, had they taken a more careful approach, but with two youngsters in the middle, one of them being Shahid Afridi, it was hardly expected. A reckless drive accounted for his wicket, while a heave from Imran Farhat landed in MS Dhoni’s gloves and gave RP Singh his first wicket.

At 39/6, the two new batsmen, Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal had a decision to make: whether to apply the brakes, or carry on at the same speed. They chose the latter, and although being more risky a plot to employ, it paid off. Pakistan reached 101/6 at lunch, by no means out of trouble, but better off compared to what they were before an hour.

Razzaq fell shortly after the interval, adjudged LBW to RP Singh, which was when Akmal took over comprehensively. He displayed a set of eye-candy drives off full-pitched deliveries. His only lapse of concentration came when he was on 80, when he came down the wicket to Anil Kumble, and was beaten by the bounce. However, Dhoni made a mess of the chance, giving Akmal a life.

Akmal made most of that chance, and brought up his fourth Test century, with a boundary off RP Singh. At the other end, Shoaib Akhtar frustrated the Indians with some cheeky batting, as Pakistan went to tea having lost only a single wicket in the middle session of the day’s play. Following the break, Akmal couldn’t last much longer, as he looked tired from all the work he did, and ended up pushing a simple chance off Pathan to Dhoni, who made no mistake this time.

Shoaib was well on his way to his first Test half century, but was removed when he was on 45, following which the innings was brought to an end swiftly at 245. Pathan ended up with five wickets, by far his best bowling performance in the series, while RP Singh impressed again with three wickets.

Pakistan 245 all out
Abdul Razzaq 45, Kamran Akmal 113, Shoaib Akhtar 45
IK Pathan 5/61, Z Khan 2/75, RP Singh 3/66
India 74/4
Mohammad Asif 2/29

India trail by 171 runs with six first innings wickets in hand

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